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Ernst von Dohnányi

A Song of Life

Ilona von Dohnányi. Edited by James A. Grymes

Publication Year: 2002

"... a rare kind of biography and autobiography: a clear and elegant exposition of fact, as well as a humane portrait of a great piano virtuoso, composer, teacher, and democratic soul, as told to and seen through the eyes of one close to him." -- Mark Mitchell

Ernst von Dohnányi (1877--1960) was one of the most highly respected musicians of his time. The young Dohnányi enjoyed an international prestige that brought him into contact with such 19th-century masters as Johannes Brahms and Eugène d'Albert. He is remembered for his technique and interpretive skills as a pianist and conductor, as well as for the masterpieces he composed for piano, chamber ensembles, and orchestra. As a teacher and administrator, Dohnányi was responsible for the training of an entire generation of musicians in Hungary, and for helping to shape the country's musical culture. After World War II, his career foundered when he was falsely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. In 1953, at the age of 76, Dohnányi returned to international prominence with a triumphant "re-debut" at Carnegie Hall. Ernst von Dohnányi: A Song of Life, written from a firsthand perspective by Dohnányi's widow, is the first full English-language biography of the artist.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v

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Editor's Preface

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pp. vi-viii

Ernst von Dohnányi (1877–1960) was one of the most highly regarded musicians of his time. From a young age Dohnányi enjoyed an international prestige that brought him into contact with such nineteenth-century masters as Eugène d’Albert and Johannes Brahms. Dohnányi’s techniqueand interpretive skills as a pianist and a conductor are legendary. He is also...

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pp. ix

This biography of my husband was a labor of love. In the event of accusa-tions that I see my husband through rose-colored glasses, I make no denial; of course I do. Through those spectacles, however, I have made an honestand earnest effort to view his life in an impartial manner. It is probably inevitable that I have not been able to accomplish this, but in no place have I...

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Prologue: 1877–1894

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pp. 1-13

Ernst von Dohn

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One: 1894-1897

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pp. 14-25

The year was 1894. A train advanced, puffing and fuming, toward Budapest. It contained no comfortable Pullman cars and no luxurious dining cars. Those who could not afford comfortable coaches had to travel on these slow passenger trains, which stopped at every obscure village whileIn a corner, at a window, sat the seventeen-year-old Ernst von Dohn

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Two: 1897-1905

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pp. 26-55


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Three: 1905-1919

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pp. 56-74

Dohnányi started his work at the Königliche Preussische Hochschulefür Musik in Berlin in October 1905. Although he was the youngest teacher, he was paid the highest salary at the Hochschule. After just three years, he would receive the prestigious title “Professor.” Upon swearing an oath as a State employee, Dohnányi was told that he had also automatically become a Prussian citizen. This came as a surprise to Dohnányi; in...

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Four: 1919-1936 [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 75-110

Once again Dohn

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Five: 1937-1944

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pp. 111-126

In 1937 Hubay died, and Dohn

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Six: 1944-1946

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pp. 127-151

The trip to Vienna was an agonizing nightmare. The truck carried the few pieces of luggage that we were able to bring with us from Hungary. Dohnányi had packed only a small suitcase, into which he had placed nothing but his tuxedo, a suit, one or two of his manuscripts including his most recent symphony, and some other small items. He had also carefully placed his favorite book, Casanova’s memoirs of his travels...

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Seven: 1946-1948

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pp. 151-168

At the London airport, the official of the Home Office examined Doh-nányi’s disorganized papers and looked up at him with interest. “Are you the famous musician?” he asked. Dohnányi nodded.“You are welcome in England, sir,” the official said with a benevolent smile. These words warmed my heart. I was even more touched by Mr. and Mrs. Tillett, who met us at Victoria Station and then treated us to a delicious supper. Dohnányi talked calmly and composedly with them, while watching me as I expressed my obvious delight upon being served a cake...

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Eight: 1948-1949

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pp. 169-188

We arrived in Buenos Aires on 4 April 1948. It was a perfect springafternoon: the sun was shining and the plants were in full bloom. Dohn

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Nine: 1949-1953

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pp. 189-200

It was late in the evening when we arrived at the Tallahassee airport. Dean Kuersteiner was out of town, so we were greeted by his charming wife and Owen Sellers, the Dean’s Assistant who would later become one of our closest friends. Mr. Sellers and Mrs. Kuersteiner drove us to a spacious wooden house with four big, furnished rooms and a porch, which Dohnányi decided would be his study. The large kitchen included a refrigerator,...

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epilogue: 1954-1960

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pp. 201-202

In 1954 Dohnányi received an honorary doctorate degree from OhioUniversity, and in 1955 we became citizens of the United States of America. Dohnányi’s reemergence as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso pianist, which had begun in Carnegie Hall on 9 November 1953, was solidified by performances in the 1956 Edinburgh Festival. One year later, Dohnányi received another honorary doctorate from the Florida State Uni-...

Appendix A. Selected Correspondence

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pp. 203-213

Appendix B. Dohnanyi's Lectures at Ohio University

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pp. 214-219

Appendix C. Selected Articles

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pp. 220-234

Appendix D. Works List

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pp. 235-244


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pp. 245-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109286
E-ISBN-10: 0253109280
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253341037

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 17 b&w photos, 1 index
Publication Year: 2002